Increasing numbers of once highly placed Scientologists are speaking publicly against the movement: and their accounts corroborate the claims of previous defectors.
By his own admission, Andre Tabayoyon was well versed in the more abusive aspects of Scientology management. In a detailed 1994 affidavit, Tabayoyon listed the techniques he had learned to apply to his fellow Scientologists. One in particular stands out.
“TOO GRUESOME TRAINING,” wrote Tabayoyon. “This training teaches a supervisor how to instil complete terror and abject fear in subordinates so that the subordinates will comply with the supervisor’s orders without question.”
Tabayoyon is a former U.S. marine who served in Vietnam. He became devoted to L. Ron Hubbard, the movement’s founder, in the early 1970s, even serving as his personal butler.
When David Miscavige took over, Tabayoyon became a senior figure at the Hemet Base, before the leader turned on him.
From having supervised the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), which he describes as “the Scientology gulag or concentration camp,” Tabayoyon became one of its inmates, before finally fleeing the movement.
Tabayoyon says he also witnessed Miscavige beat up another Scientologist. “Mark Fisher, who was severely beaten by Miscavige, repeatedly told Miscavige and others that he did not want to be at the Hemet base,” he wrote in his affidavit.
“As Miscavige and others beat Mark in my presence, Mark kept saying that his attackers could beat him all they wanted but he still wanted to leave. Finally, Miscavige expressed his contempt and disgust at Mark and left the guard house where Mark was being held.”
Fisher was once one of Miscavige’s most senior aides at the International Base at Hemet, California. The attack to which Tabayoyon refers happened in July 1990 and Fisher has since left the movement.
But more than a decade since Tabayoyon made his original allegation, other defectors have stepped forward to confirm his account.
“You should know that Mark is much bigger than DM [Miscavige], at least six feet tall – and maybe a good 60 pounds heavier,” says one source. “But he did not resist at all. He just went to the ground and covered up. And his head was bleeding at the end of it.”
Marc Headley, a more recent defector, has also confirmed the assault. Miscavige – or DM as he calls him – took care to hand his Ray-Bans to a colleague before starting his attack, he said.
“After DM was done he went back to ____ got his glasses back and told ____ to make sure the MO [medical officer] took a look at him [Fisher]. DM then left. That is what I remember.”
Critics of Scientology are delighted that a new wave of defectors is speaking out about abuses in the movement and confirming the accounts of those who left years earlier.
But Scientology’s spokesmen continue to dismiss their allegations. They portray the disillusioned members who speak out against them as weak characters who failed to measure up to the movement’s high ethical standards.
It is certainly true that some people who quit Scientology never accept responsibility for any abuses they might have committed during their time inside. But some former members who have gone public have also come clean on what they did while in positions of authority.
Andre Tabayoyon, for example, is quite explicit in his affidavit about the abuse he inflicted on his fellow Scientologists when he still enjoyed power. Some former members have still not forgiven him.
John Peeler, in going public about his experiences inside Scientology, owned up to – and apologised for – his actions during his time as an ethics officer at the International Base. This mea culpa appears to have been well received by the online ex-member community.
It is difficult to square this kind of behaviour with Scientology’s characterisation of former members as weak, “self-seeking” apostates acting entirely out of selfish motives.
Even before speaking out, many of these former members had paid a high price simply for quitting the movement.
Marc Headley has lost contact with his sister and mother, both still Scientologists. Andre Tabayoyon and his wife no longer have any contact with their son, who is still inside the movement.
Maureen Bolstad, although she writes to her twin sister regularly, has not heard from her since she found herself declared an enemy of Scientology – a “suppressive person” – for having criticised the movement.
Scientology’s policy of disconnection, forcing members to cut off all contact with anyone designated “suppressive” is one of the movement’s most controversial practices.
Scientology officials continue to deny that anyone is forced to break off from loved ones in this way. But there is no shortage of former members who will tell you that their friends and family cannot speak to them any more for fear of being cast out of the movement themselves.
Some former members who have managed to maintain contact with relatives inside the movement say the threat of disconnection is what keeps them from speaking out publicly.
And quite apart from the issue of disconnection, Scientology has a reputation for aggressively pursuing its critics: its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, issued detailed instructions on the “noisy investigation” of the movement’s enemies.
Today however, increasing numbers of once high-level Scientologists have had enough and walked away from the movement. They include senior executives who some observers are convinced hold highly compromising information on the movement.
Whether or not these key individuals will ever be willing to speak out is another question. Some of them may have to come to terms with what they did during their time at the top.
Peeler, Hawkins and Headley only went public in 2008. John Peeler is quite clear that he would never have had the nerve to do so on his own.
And Hawkins, in his blog Counterfeit Dreams, writes that he only made the jump after three women who had grown up in the movement launched the Ex Scientology Kids website for young people who had shared their experience.
“You could say they shamed me into it,” he wrote. “If they were willing to put their names on the line and face whatever Scientology dished out, then what was I afraid of?”
Increasing numbers of former members are swapping experiences on the Internet: and to judge from the news groups and message boards, they are becoming increasingly angry.
Peeler has talked about a “dream team” of defectors from Scientology’s International Base at Hemet, California: people who worked alongside David Miscavige and can testify to abuses that they witnessed and in some cases experienced.
Hawkins, Peeler and Bolstad have all declared in Internet postings that they are ready to back Headley in his legal action.
Supporting these public critics are friends and colleagues who for the moment have decided to remain silent. But one gets the distinct impression that, far from running scared, some of them are only keeping their powder dry.
There can be little doubt that more revelations are on the way.
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